If Denis Rhodes suffered from cancer or heart issues or any other chronic fatal disease, his family could still be rest assured that they would be covered by insurance. But Rhodes had Alzheimer’s disease which isn’t covered by insurance carriers. The exorbitant cost of dementia care was around $8500 in a month or $105,000 in a year and all these costs were borne by his wife Lenia. It goes without mentioning that this was soon draining off their lifetime savings! It is terrifying indeed for Lenia Rhodes (64), who spent more than $35,000 on this illness of her 65-year-old husband who fails to recognize her.
For seniors and the disabled, Medicare is a lifeline, especially when they’re paying for surgery, hospitalization, transplants, chemotherapy, pacemakers, medications and other interventions. But it is sad enough to note that being diagnosed with dementia demands none of that – rather all it requires is custodial care round-the-clock like help with dressing, eating, and continuous supervision. Dementia caring may not be covered by Medicare and this disease is extraordinarily costly, as released in a report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Dementia and its damaging impact on your bank account
The out-of-pocket costs for families that have a patient suffering from dementia are 80% higher when compared to the families that have patients suffering from cancer or heart diseases. Though the costs were spurring from everybody, yet those for dementia were astronomical. In fact, it ended up in impoverishing the spouse despite having several years in front of them.
According to projections by the Alzheimer’s Association report, families had spent $60 billion for taking care of their suffering family members in the year 2018. With the hike in the number of senior Americans, there is also a consequential rise in the occurrence of dementia. This, in turn, is increasing the number of families that are going through a financial crisis. In the United States, around 200,000 people witness early onset of Alzheimer’s.
Dealing with early-stage dementia – How can you protect your parent’s assets?
Moderate level of cognitive impairment leads to poor judgment abilities and memory loss, both of which are identified at a rather late stage. The aging seniors who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment always stand the risk of making extremely poor money management decisions which can have a jeopardizing impact on their life savings, on their personal finances and also on their homeownership. Scroll down to know more on how you can protect your aging dad’s retirement savings.
Safeguarding the assets of your parents
So, you think you’ve done everything? From sitting with them to chalk out a financial plan to planning long term senior care, you think everything is according to your plan. One fine day, you find your loved ones struggling with money management. You find him taking longer time to calculate the tip on a restaurant check or you find they’ve made unwise decisions regarding their investments. Isn’t this situation familiar for many?
As you discover the fact that your dad is suffering from cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s, you decide to check his finances. Once you dig deeper, you see that the checking account is in a mess, there are late payments, overdrafts, duplicate payments and what not! The American Medical Association reveals that the incapability of managing finances is perhaps the first thing that you will notice in your aging parent when he has developed dementia.
Stay wary about the symptoms of memory loss
More than 20% of the Americans who are above the age of 65 suffer from cognitive impairment and more than 6 million suffer from Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, according to an AARP bulletin, even healthy seniors might experience cognitive decline which comes with reasoning incapabilities, difficulty in processing information and skills of making decisions to wane after the age of 60. The caregivers or the family physicians need to be alert about the symptoms of cognitive impairment so that they can be quick in making decisions. Here are some such symptoms.
- Difficulty with handling the common monetary skills like calculating a change, balancing the bank checkbooks or handling multiple financial documents.
- Being over-concerned about bank accounts and ‘missing funds’.
- Not remembering to pay bills or rent which leads to disconnection of utility services.
- Unusual or abnormal purchasing behavior or withdrawing money unwisely.
- Accusing someone else of stealing money.
- Getting calls from the bank regarding problems with checking accounts.
- Getting victimized by financial fraud and scam companies.
Handling the inevitable odds which can’t be ignored
There’s perhaps not a single family which would ever want to sit at the dining table to discuss the risks of dementia. Nevertheless, irrespective of how much you ignore discussing these, there are some inevitable odds which are too high to ignore. The Memory Study which is backed by the National Institute of Aging figures out that 15% of the Americans at the age of 71 or older suffer from some kind of dementia and one-third of the people above the age of 85 have moderate to late stage dementia. These percentages will most likely worsen with time.
The key issue is that not many families are open to handling the money of their parents as they age. As per a survey, only 1 in 4 families discussed how their aging parents will be cared for and financially provided for. Half of those who were surveyed and who were developing even the early stages of the disease didn’t have a will and just 4 in 10 had penned down a health care directive of their own.
There’s more to estate planning than just taxes and bequests
If you thought estate planning only deals with taxes and bequests, you were wrong. It even means handling your finances in such a manner that in case of cognitive decline, a caregiver, probably your partner, spouse or your offspring could step in to manage your finances and give you a better quality of life. This kind of estate planning is imperative especially for adults who have reached 65 years of age. In short, it is never easy when you have to take care of your dad or granddad who is suffering from dementia. Society places huge demands on poor caregivers instead of offering them help to minimize their financial and emotional stress.
Approaches towards dementia care with the progress of the disease
Dementia progresses for several years and the initial symptoms are difficult to recognize and mild. However, the damage tends to increase with time and hence the amount of help needs to be adjusted. There are 3 broad categories under which dementia can be discussed:
- First stage dementia where you need to ensure autonomy and dignity. The goal of the caregiver is to maintain the enjoyment of the person who is suffering.
- Second stage dementia where you need to ensure safety. In this stage, the person is more at risk of decline in insight and function.
- Third stage dementia where you need to ensure dignity, comfort and good quality life. Care includes reassessing treatment approaches and medications.
Care approaches for Early Stage Dementia
As long as planning for early-stage dementia is concerned, it can be done by the sufferer himself and by his friends and family members. This is the stage where the person is able to understand his situation, tell others what he wants and can also plan for his future. Here are the things that he can do during the initial stage.
- He can adjust to his dementia state
As mentioned above, the symptoms of early age are mild enough. The person who is suffering from dementia can function properly and do most of the activities on his own. However, they might get forgetful and start losing their usual ability to plan and decide things. There may be issues with mood disorders and language or personality changes. Luckily, this is a stage where medicines can impact the patients. As the person who is suffering can understand his disease, he can get to learn more about it. Henceforth, they’re able to adjust emotionally with his problems.
- He can make changes for planning a healthier future
Dementia is a disease which will certainly lead to increased dependence and reduced abilities. Therefore, this has an impact on what the person can plan for his future. During the early stage, the patient himself can decide on the changes that he wants to bring about to his future. For instance, if they’re working, they can reduce commitments and distribute responsibilities. In case they’re living alone, they can plan to move with their children or even check out the assisted living facilities or elderly home care facilities for themselves.
- Caregivers can help the person stay independent and do their own jobs
The support that one may need during this stage is low and hence caregivers just find out ways to let them live a meaningful, independent and dignified life. Home adaptations are one activity that you need to plan during this stage. The caregivers can adjust and change the surroundings so that the person doesn’t get confused. The sufferer can use reminder notes as remembering aids. The caregiver may label drawers, containers using pictures and words and place visible signs on doors. Allow them to handle their medicine boxes on their own and make all their choices simple.
- Caregivers can prepare themselves for offering later care
During the early stage, the caregivers needn’t be present with the patient all the time. The effort that they need to give is also not as high as what it will get later on with the progress of the disease. Hence, they need to learn the skills so that they can prepare themselves for offering later care. Here are a few things you should start getting educated on:
- Understanding the disease, the different symptoms, how it progresses and how it can impact the person sooner or later
- Understand the role of medicines, which medicines can help when and the limitations of the medicines
- Understanding and empathizing with the medical state of the person
- Learn about the past of the patient, his dislikes and likes. Even though you may be someone too close, you may not know the details of the person. Hence, try to know them before it’s too late
- Understand and realize the specific area of the life of the person which might need support later on. Some instances like tax and financial decisions might have to be offered support by the caregiver
- Know how to interact with a person who is suffering from dementia and know how you should adjust your talking approach for making it easier for them to understand you. Know how you can help them and get to know on changed behaviors, the reasons behind the changes, how you can adjust yourself and how you can handle such behaviors when you are the main caregiver
- Caregivers require being aware of the risks of dementia getting worse
People who are going through early-stage dementia can do several things both alone and with the help of someone. Hence, it is clear that they won’t require full-time assistance. However, with the progress of the disease, dementia gets worse and this could happen rapidly or slowly. Hence, the caregivers need to stay aware of these reducing abilities, the risks, and mistakes. He should be aware of how the person is handling those activities which might be unsafe for them, for example driving. If the person with dementia drives on his own, you should accompany him to check whether he is driving safely.
Caregivers are busy taking care of a person who is suffering from dementia and they tend to forget to take care of themselves. As a caregiver, you should plan for self-care as soon as possible as later on you may get overwhelmed and tired with the disease. Make sure you take out time to plan for your health and happiness while you continue taking care of your family member.
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